Saturday, August 10, 2019

Saturday Reflection

"Consider the following hoary clichés:

'Too bad human decency and justice haven't kept pace with our technological progress.' 

''No past era featured as much cruelty and misery as this one.' 

In spite of their vogue, both are patently false.

Over half of those alive on Earth today never saw war, starvation or major civil strife with their own eyes. Most never went more than a day without food. Only a small fraction have seen a city burn, heard the footsteps of a conquering army, or watched an overlord massacre the helpless.

All these events were routine for our ancestors. Of course, hundreds of millions have experienced such things, and the terrors continue. Our consciences, prodded by the relentless power of television, must not cease demanding compassion and vigorous action.

Still, things have changed somewhat since humanity wallowed in horror, during the middle years of the Twentieth Century. The ratio of humans who now live modestly safe and comfortable lives has never been greater.

As for comparing technical and moral advances, there's no contest. For example, while I truly love the Internet, its effects on real life have so far been exaggerated. Telephones and radio had far greater immediate effects when they entered the home. Yes, we have fancier autos and sleeker airplanes. But people still pack their kids in a car and fight traffic to reach the airport in time to meet Grandma's flight from Chicago... as they did when I was seven. Life's tempo has speeded, but the basic rhythm is little different than it was in 1958.

It is our attitudes — toward all sorts of injustices that used to be considered inherent — that underwent a transformation unlike any in history."

(David Brin, text which can be found in "The Future keeps surprising us" (2003) and "The self-preventing prophecy." (1999) 

The latter predicted that a woman or person of colour would preside in the White House long before a human steps on Mars ten years before the inauguration of Barak Obama.)

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